I joined the Navy Because ...

by: Bob Keefe
USN 9199479

© 1999

Đà Nẵng - 1967 My friend, Dicky Kelly said, "Let's join the Navy now or we can wait and get drafted!" Three hots-and-a-cot---see the world---and all that crap. We went in on what the Navy called a kiddie cruise, go in before you are 18 and get out the day before you turn 21. Boot camp at Great Lakes, see the world on the Greenwich Bay AVP41, painted white for a tour in the Persian Gulf. Home then back to GL for ET "A" school, good in theory but not so good in practical application.
      As a reward for flunking out get assigned to Naval support act, Đà Nẵng. SERE training in Virginia, fork lift drivers school at Cheetham Annex, two weeks at home then off to war.
      March 26,1967 land in Đà Nẵng and it's even hotter than Saudi Arabia. Assigned to APL as a pearl diver for a short time then into Camp Tien Sha carrying an M-16 in a security detail guarding the Ford plant. It still makes sense to me. The Marines were getting tired of taking hits out at Marble Mountain and decided to turn security over to Navy pukes. Volunteers were needed and since the Chief and I didn't get along he volunteered me right at the head of the list.
      Forty guys, one Chief named Lambert who actually knew what he was doing and a series of chicken crap Lt's who made sure they made it back to safe ground every night. Lambert was a former Army Gunny who bailed us out with his scrounging ability and teachable knowledge of how weapons worked. We took harassing fire just about every night usually just small arms, occasionally mortar fire but always enough to keep us terrified. Our real problem was our isolation. We had to truck to the Hospital for food and the roads were constantly mined.
      The guys with the dogs, Metal detectors and the mine sweepers checked the road every morning but not always with the greatest success. We lost a Dog walker named Carter (Camp Carter), a bunch more hurt when a mine got them leaving one morning, another killed a bunch of natives one afternoon and they got a truckload of our own one morning on the way to China Beach for a day of R&R. We finally started going out the back through the Marine LVT's and that ended that.
      We were, thanks to Chief Lambert, getting better with our mortars and machine guns and since we were sitting just above rocket alley our map and fire support skills were also improving. We were, however, sitting ducks and we knew it. Tet was coming and we felt that we had become a sharp stick up Charley's ass and if things got tense we were not in a real great spot. We will hold the details for later but it had already whupped the crap out of my three-hots-and-a-cot theory.


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